11. Public research funding and its implications for science, innovation and society

Convenors: Benedetto Lepori, Ben Jongbloed and Diana Hicks.

Session type: Full paper session.

Government funding of research in public sector institutions forms the backbone of the research enterprise on which corporate efforts and social innovation depend. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the evolving landscape of public research funding. Increasingly public authorities intentionally allocate public funds with the aim of steering research to promote scientific excellence, foster economic growth and address grand societal challenges (Dasgupta and David 1994; Hessels and & Freeman 2010). Concepts such ‘academic capitalism’ (Slaughter and Rhoades 2004) and new public management (Ferlie, Musselin and Andresani 2008 have promoted the controversial notion that competition and economic incentives are better than direct regulation in achieving policy goals in research and higher education (Capano 2011). Therefore, governments moved away from unconditionally providing core funding to universities and institutes to conduct research and instead developed allocation models tied to performance and to policy goals (Geuna 2001; Hicks, 2012).

In recent decades, the landscape of public research funding has become increasingly complex and differentiated. There has been a proliferation of underlying policy regimes (Elzinga, 2012), of instruments adopted to implement policies (Capano et al., 2019; Flanagan et al., 2011) and of actors and organizational arrangements involved in the management of funding (Simon et al., 2019) creating a multilayered and distributed system (Lepori, 2011). To fully comprehend this system, one must attend to a range of strategic actors including research funding organizations (Lepori and Reale, 2019), universities (Jongbloed and Lepori, 2015), public research organizations (Cruz-Castro and Sanz-Menéndez, 2018), as well as individual researchers (Laudel, 2006).

While there is a rich literature on public research funding and its instruments (see Cocos and Lepori, 2020), there are still several notable gaps in our understanding of this topic. Descriptive studies dominate, and theoretical work is scattered. We lack systematic evidence on the behavior of actors in the research funding systems and, accordingly, on behavioral impacts. Finally, we lack studies which conceptualize and analyze empirically the ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ interactions in what can be characterized as an increasingly differentiated market landscape of funding opportunities (Aagaard et al., 2020).

In this context, the track has a threefold objective:

First, we aim to provide a theoretical understanding of public research funding from different disciplinary perspectives, including political science and public administration, economics and innovation, management and organization, as well as social studies applied to science. Rooting the understanding of public research funding in theories and models developed in these disciplines should help scholars to address important questions in a more analytical and less descriptive way.

Second, we aim to delineate a state of the art on some key issues around public research funding, such as the impact of performance-based funding, how resources are allocated internally within research organizations and how different grant allocation systems work. These issues have been debated at length in the scholarly literature, the function of the track being to review the evidence available and to highlight open issues.

Third, we aim at filling some relevant gaps in our understanding of how public research funding works, such as budgetary approaches and politics in research funding and understanding the up- and downstream dynamics of research funding. In this perspective, the function of the track is to highlight emerging directions of research and related open questions to be addressed by future research.

The track is closely connected with the ‘Handbook of Public Research Funding’, a book project being edited by the three convenors for Edward Elgar. Participation will be open to the selected contributors for the handbook, but also to additional scholars, who might wish to contribute. Depending on the submissions received, we intend to organize the track in distinct sessions, for example focusing on the policy layer, the funding instruments layer and the organizational layer (Lepori, 2011). Each session will be opened by a scoping paper by the convenors, include selected paper presentations and be closed by a roundtable for a summary discussion.



Aagaard, K., Mongeon, P., Ramos-Vielba, I., Thomas, D.A., 2020. Getting to the bottom of research funding: Acknowledging the complexity of funding arrangements.

Capano, G., Pritoni, A., Vicentini, G., 2019. Do policy instruments matter? Governments’ choice of policy mix and higher education performance in Western Europe. Journal of Public Policy , 1-27.

Cocos, M., Lepori, B., 2020. What we know about research policy mix. Science and Public Policy 47, 235-245.

Cruz-Castro, L., Sanz-Menéndez, L., 2018. Autonomy and Authority in Public Research Organisations: Structure and Funding Factors. Minerva 56, 135-160.

Elzinga, A., 2012. Features of the current science policy regime: Viewed in historical perspective. Science and Public Policy 39, 416-428.

Flanagan, K., Uyarra, E., Laranja, M., 2011. Reconceptualising the ‘policy mix’ for innovation. Research Policy 40, 702-713.

Hicks, D., 2012. Performance-based university research funding systems. Research Policy 41, 251-261.

Jongbloed, B., Lepori, B., 2015. The funding of research in higher education: mixed models and mixed results, in Souto-Otero, M., Huisman, J., Dill, D.D., de Boer, H., Oberai, A.S., Williams, L. (Ed.), Handbook of Higher Education Policy and Governance. Palgrave, New York, pp. 439-461.

Laudel, G., 2006. The art of getting funded: how scientists adapt to their funding conditions. Science and Public Policy 33, 489-504.

Lepori, B., 2011. Coordination modes in public funding systems. Research policy 40, 355-367.

Lepori, B., Reale, E., 2019. The changing governance of research systems. Agencification and organizational differentiation in research funding organizations, in Anonymous Handbook on Science and Public Policy. Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenam, pp. 448-463.

Simon, D., Kuhlmann, S., Stamm, J., Canzler, W., 2019. Introduction: Science and public policy-relations in flux, in Anonymous Handbook on Science and Public Policy. Edward Elgar Publishing.